Under Mary Barra, GM Focuses On Emerging Technologies

mary barraUnder chair and CEO Mary Barra, General Motors is focusing on emerging technologies — like the self-driving car, mobility apps and an autonomous fuel cell electric platform – innovations that will not only transform the company, but also the industry.

The Detroit automaker in January filed a safety petition with the Department of Transportation for its fourth-generation self-driving Cruise AV, the first production-ready vehicle built from the start to operate safely on its own, with no driver, steering wheel, pedals or manual controls.

GM also now offers Maven, a personal mobility app for on-demand GM car rentals. Maven Home provides on-site car sharing for residential communities; Maven City offers vehicles with dedicated parking spots for easy city driving, available by the hour, day, week or month with gas included; and Maven Gig allows members to earn money on their own terms by providing a vehicle that can be used to deliver goods or transport people.

Under Barra, GM “has built, partnered, and acquired everything it needs to be a significant player in such a vision of the future of transportation,” says Fast Company, which named GM as one of the World’s Most Innovative Companies in 2018.

But that’s not all: GM aims to solve some of the toughest transportation challenges created by natural disasters, complex logistics environments and global conflicts. The company’s Silent Utility Rover Universal Superstructure (SURUS), leverages GM’s newest Hydrotec fuel cell system, autonomous capability and truck chassis components to deliver high-performance, zero-emission propulsion to minimize logistical burdens and reduce human exposure to harm.

Fuel cell technology offers a solution that can scale to larger vehicles with large payload requirements and operate over longer distances. The SURUS platform is equally well-suited for adaptation to military environments.

GM has also been streamlining its operations, including selling its Opel/Vauxhall subsidiary and GM Financial’s European operations to the PSA Group. In announcing the deal last March, Barra said the sale would free up human and cash resources so that GM could focus on initiatives to “transform the company.”

“We are reshaping our company and delivering consistent, record results for our owners through disciplined capital allocation to our higher-return investments in our core automotive business and in new technologies that are enabling us to lead the future of personal mobility,” she said.

The first woman to serve as CEO of a major automaker, Barra has been ranked No. 1 on Fortune’s Most Powerful Women list for the past three years.

She is the daughter of a retired blue-collar GM veteran and herself a one-time “factory rat” who started working at a GM plant as a student, according to a NBC News profile. Barra’s style, according to insiders, is more “the consummate coach” than micro-manager. One GM colleague says that Barra “encourages the team members she trusts to make a case for what they believe needs to be done.”

She’s No. 8 on Chief Executive and RHR International’s CEO1000 Tracker, a ranking of the top 1,000 public/private companies.

Mary Barra, CEO & Chair, General Motors

Headquarters: Detroit, MI

Age: 56

Undergraduate degree: Kettering University

Graduate degree: Stanford Graduate School of Business

First position with company: Cooperative education student

First joined company: 1980

Named CEO: 2014